Decoding millennials in the gig economy

Six trends to watch in alternative work

Millennials’ participation in the gig economy continues to rise and organizations are eagerly tapping into this pool of workers to hire more people off their balance sheets. But how are the millennial gig workers faring? In which fields are they likely to find jobs? Are they earning enough to support themselves? A decade of data and research offer some answers.

A growing body of research points to the growth of the alternative workforce—particularly as it relates to many millennials “opting out” of the traditional workforce. A recent 2017 study reports that overall self-employment is likely to triple to 42 million workers by 2020, with millennials leading the way. The study predicts that 42 percent of all self-employed individuals in the United States are likely to be millennials by 2020.1 As people consider new forms of employment, many organizations are turning toward the growing alternative workforce segment and seeking to hire more workers off their balance sheets as part of a workforce ecosystem.

How well do we understand what millennial alternative workers generally look like, do, and want? As more organizations begin to leverage this supply of talent, what story does the data tell about millennials working in the alternative workforce? In this article, we examine over a decade of data and research collected on millennials entering and exiting the alternative workforce to identify potentially notable or statistically significant trends over the years. The data appears to point to six emerging and notable trends that should be on the radar of any leader seeking to leverage the millennial alternative workforce:


  • The proportion of women in the millennial alternative workforce is shrinking, possibly because more millennial women than men are going back to school.
  • The proportion of household income millennials receive from alternative work is increasing.
  • Most alternative millennial workers make less than their traditional full-time employed counterparts.
  • Millennial alternative workers are often supported by someone else in their household.
  • Alternative millennial workers are more likely to find jobs in the arts, maintenance, and administrative professions.
  • Alternative millennial workers appear to be more likely to break the rules, have emotional agility, and work hard.


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